Thursday, 8 August 2019

Czech Republic to have ambassador in Cuba

2 May 2016

Prague, April 29 (CTK) - The Czech Republic will promote its relations with Cuba to a markedly higher level within a few months and it will have its ambassador in Havana after a long time, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said at a press conference focusing on economic diplomacy on Friday.

Czech-Cuban relations were tense for years after the 1989 collapse of communism in the Czech Republic, also because Prague criticised the violation of human rights in Cuba. Recently, relations between the two countries have eased.

The Czech Republic and Cuba are each represented by a charge d'affaires in the other country.

"It [promotion of diplomatic relations] will happen within a few months. The agreement has already been supported by both parties, we have Cuba's assertion that it is interested in it," Zaoralek said.

He said Prague has already decided on details such as personnel matters.

"We have proceeded quite far, I think the step is in the offing and it will be taken soon," Zaoralek said.

After the 1989 fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, Prague ranked among the sharpest critics of the communist regime in Cuba. As a result, it reduced its representation in Cuba to the charge d'affaires level.

Prague also strongly supported the sanctions the West temporarily imposed on Cuba after Havana's crackdown on Cuban dissidents in 2003.

Reacting to the Czech approach, Havana called Prague a despisable lackey of the USA and a bootlicker kowtowing to Washington.

A diplomatic conflict broke out in January 2001, when Cuban authorities detained Czech lawmaker Ivan Filip and former anti-communist student leader Jan Bubenik for almost four weeks.

Four years later, the Cuban authorities expelled Czech senator and later foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who arrived to attend a meeting organised by dissidents.

The present Czech centre-left government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) is trying to change Prague's relations with Cuba.

Last year, the first mission of Czech businesspeople in modern history visited Cuba, as did Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Tlapa.

The two sides agreed on widening mutual dialogue in the areas of trade, culture, science and education.

In 2014, the Czech exports to Cuba reached 602 million crowns. The major exports products are malt, condensed milk, turbines and motorbikes.

The imports from Cuba reached 316 million crowns, with alcohol, cigars, medicines and coffee being the major import commodities.

Mutual trade was many times higher before 1989 when communists were in power in Prague.

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